Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Disney-Pixar’s “Finding Nemo in 3-D”: Go, Fish!

Disney-Pixar’s Fifth Animated Feature – 2003 (Original Release) 2012 (3-D Release)
About a year ago, Disney announced it would re-release a collection of its most popular animated films in 3-D. This seemed an easy decision owing to the success of their recent re-release, The Lion King in 3-D. The public could soon see a 3-D version of Beauty and the Beast (January 2012), Finding Nemo (September 2012), Monsters, Inc. (January, 2013) and The Little Mermaid (September 2013). Having already seen the re-release of The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast, I admit it was great seeing those wonderful films on the big screen again; but the 3-D conversion didn’t enhance the experience. If anything, 2-D characters would sometimes appear to be paper-thin cutouts in a distorted 3-D world. As a big fan of (especially) Beauty and the Beast, I would pay to see the 2-D version of the film on the big screen, just so I could share it with my daughter. I didn’t need the 3-D “improvement.”

Marlin and Dory and
dangerous jellyfish.
Now, Finding Nemo directed by Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich is a different kettle of fish. Finding Nemo was “drawn” with computers. Its characters resemble three-dimensional objects, so the leap to 3-D is more natural. The good news is that 3-D really is an extraordinary visual enhancement to what was already an exquisite motion picture. In fact, Finding Nemo in 3-D looks as if it was always a 3-D film.

What Finding Nemo in 3-D has that puts it a cut above other 3-D films in current release is what it has always had: a wonderful story, expertly voiced by a talented cast. Albert Brooks is clown fish Marlin, husband and father to about 400 fish eggs. His wife Coral and he are excited to become parents; until a barracuda attacks, whacking Marlin unconscious. He awakens to find Coral and the eggs sadly gone. That is, except for a single egg that he immediately names Nemo to honor his wife’s wishes.

Dory shows Marlin that she
can "speak whale."
Fast forward to Nemo’s first day of school and an (understandably) over-protective Marlin, who is reluctant to let Nemo attend. He finally agrees and watches as a manta ray/scientist whisks Nemo and a “school” of fish/kids off for a day of exploration and learning. Just as Marlin is getting used to the idea, he finds out that the school is headed for the “drop off,” the part of the ocean where the protective coral reef ends and the (dangerous) open water begins.

Marlin chases down the school and chastises Nemo in front of his new pals. Nemo sneaks away to prove his bravery and independence by touching the bottom of a boat in the open water. While Marlin freaks out and barks orders, a pair of divers appear. Marlin is blinded by flash photography as Nemo is slipped into a bag, destined for life in a tropical fish tank.

Bruce the shark is named after the
mechanical shark from "Jaws."
The rest of the film follows Marlin as he searches for his lost son. Along the way he makes an important new friend in Dory, a blue tang fish with short-term memory problems, wonderfully voiced by the very funny Ellen DeGeneres. Marlin and Dory face down all the perils the sea can offer and Marlin is a living legend by the time he finally makes his way to Sydney Harbor. At the same time, Nemo is having an adventure of his own among his fish-tank pals, featuring a stand-out voice performance by Willem Dafoe as seen-it-all angel fish Gill. Pixar good luck charm John Ratzenberger is just right as a sarcastic school of sardines that enjoys doing impressions.

This is an almost perfect, deeply moving film. It also creates a nice companion piece to the recently released Brave, as both stories are about the strong bond of love between a parent and child. It's about loving and supporting each other, learning to trust, and learning to let go. It's about the deep respect that's the flip side of our best love relationships. Add to that the fact that the undersea vistas—especially the coral reef—are nothing less than stunning in 3-D. Finding Nemo in 3-D is a true family film: a great film for parents AND kids. And for anyone who has ever been either. You should sea it. That’s not a typo.

All photos courtesy of Disney/Pixar, used with permission. ©2012 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

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